Jill Janus, the lead singer of the rock bank Huntress, died by suicide on Aug. 14. She was 43.
Jill Janus is perhaps best known as the incendiary lead singer of the progressive thrash metal group Huntress. For years, Huntress, which Janus describes as an “occult” band, has combined its intense sound with themes of fantasy to convey the band’s message.
All the while, however, Janus was confronting the all-too-real experience of not only mental illness, in the form of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder and alcoholism, but also physical illness in the form of cancer.
She has bravely chosen to share her story and message that one can recover from illness, and have a “new beginning.”
Janus has received several diagnoses over the years. The first she recalls was bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a persistently elevated or irritated mood that lasts for at least a week. Many people with bipolar disorder describe the experience as a surge of energy that seems to have no origin. During this time, people can often become very grandiose, feel like they are racing and get involved in either highly productive activities or destructive activities, such as spending sprees or other risky behaviors.
Janus described when she first noticed changes during adolescence. “At the age of 14, my family noticed a shift in my moods,” she told me. “I was very active as a performer, had a strong sense of purpose and was almost too self-confident. I developed a superiority complex and started having fist fights at school, mostly with boys. The violence was explosive. Then I’d sink into depression. I experienced rapid cycling between the two modes.”
“I attempted suicide for the first time at the age of 16 with a pair of scissors. I was getting mandatory counseling at school but didn’t see a psychiatrist until I was 20. I was then diagnosed manic-depressive and participated in a medical study at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.”
Janus also describes psychotic symptoms, and was eventually diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and then later schizophrenia. Both schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are characterized by “psychotic” symptoms, which could include hallucinations — that is, having sensory experiences that are assessed as not “real” or as delusional. One major difference between the diagnoses is that schizoaffective disorder includes a combination of psychotic symptoms and mood symptoms such as mania, whereas schizophrenia is diagnosed based on the presence of psychotic symptoms alone.
Janus describes the aspects of her experience that were diagnosed as psychotic.
“I’ve always seen and heard things others couldn’t. Many visions or dreams would manifest into reality, which my family and friends described as my ‘psychic ability,’” she explained.
“This caused more drama at school, being called a ‘freak’ and getting beaten up. When I was 17, the visions and encounters with ‘other-worldly creatures’ was almost a daily occurrence.”
Janus’ band confirmed the news on their Facebook page on Thursday in which they wrote she “took her own life outside of Portland, Oregon.”
“It is with crushed hearts that we announce that Jill Janus — frontwoman for the California heavy metal band Huntress — passed away on Tuesday, August. 14,” the band wrote. “A long-time sufferer of mental illness, she took her own life outside of Portland, Oregon.”
“Janus spoke publicly about these challenges in hopes of guiding others to address and overcome their mental illness,” the post continued.
The band celebrated Janus’ talent as well as her collaborations with female hard rock cover bands such as The Starbreakers and Chelsea Girls.
Janus also worked as a “co-composer and creator of an upcoming rock opera with Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Angus Clark and had a decade-long career as NYC DJ Penelope Tuesdae.”
“Beyond her accomplishments in the music world and her advocacy for mental health issues, she was a beautiful person passionate about her family, animal rescue and the world of natural medicine,” the band wrote. “She will be missed more than she could have ever known.”
Several of Janus’ friends mourned the singer’s death on social media, including Lizzy Hale of Halestorm.
Hale shared a photo of herself with Janus on Instagram in which she also wrote about the Huntress singer’s “struggles with mental health and addiction.”
“It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to one of our peers. Jill Janus, has died today. Jill was very open about her struggles with mental health and addiction,” Hale wrote. “Now, more than ever, spanning across Every age group, the suicide rate is extremely high.”
“I’d like to take a moment to state again how important it is to talk about mental health, and remind all of you out there battling demons that you are not alone,” she wrote. “I have to navigate my own dark labyrinth and I turn to music and writing for my lifeline. I want to encourage you to keep searching for Your lifeline, something that makes You happy.”
“It doesn’t matter if no one gets it but you…that’s ok! We need to Stop trying to live up to expectations that society places in front of us to make us feel Unworthy of love, beauty and success,” she continued.
“We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We need to stop trying to be ‘normal.’ And we need to stop being quiet about our mental wellbeing. Asking for help doesn’t mean your broken,” Hale added. “And if you don’t know how to ask for help that’s ok too, those of us who have a shoulder will let you lean on it!”
She also had a special message to Janus.
“To Jill, My sister of scream, I hope wherever you are you have found the peace that you couldn’t here,” Hale wrote. “My deepest sympathy’s go out to Jill’s Family and her band Huntress during this time.”
Janus’ former Huntress bandmate, Casey Wood, also shared his grief on social media with a touching post on Facebook.
“I’m in shock and can’t stop crying. My ex-band mate singer has left the world. She was the biggest sweetheart and I hope that her Legacy lives on as it should!” He wrote. “You were supposed to be on your way back here Jill Janus. I love you I miss you, and my door is still open for you always. Rest in peace my sister.”
Huntress is an American heavy metal band. It was founded in the underground of Highland Park, California when lead vocalist Jill Janus moved to Los Angeles where she met an underground metal band called ‘Professor’ in 2009. Huntress was signed by Napalm Records in November 2011. A debut EP Off with Her Head was released in 2010. On December 27, 2011, they released their first single, “Eight of Swords”, to promote their debut album, Spell Eater.
In October 2015, Janus posted a now-deleted note on Facebook announcing the band would finish its activities, but that she would continue to make music. Lead guitarist Blake Meahl, however, dismissed her statement as a consequence of her health and mental issues, and said the band would continue to perform.
On August 14, 2018, vocalist Jill Janus committed suicide outside of Portland, Oregon. The future of the band is currently unknown.
In an interview with Revolver magazine (and obtained by Loudwire) in July 2015, she opened up about her numerous struggles with mental health, revealing she had Bipolar disorder — a diagnosis she received when she was 20.
“I started to show signs of it when I was 13, though, and I struggled with it through high school,” she said at the time. “It started to get dangerous in my early teens. By the time I was 20 and living in Manhattan, it was very, very difficult for me.”
She continued, “That’s when I was admitted into a mental health facility and was diagnosed bipolar with schizoaffective disorder, which progressed into schizophrenia and dissociative disorder.”
Janus revealed she’d always struggled with suicidal thoughts, describing herself as “very suicidal” in her early years, which turned into “full-blown mania” which resulted in her losing some memories.
“I lost my long-term memory and can’t remember names, faces, or even places,” she said.
Janus was also diagnosed with cancer in 2015.
“When we were on tour with Amon Amarth, I started to bleed heavily between my periods,” she recalled. “I had a procedure, and my doctor found early stages of cancer in my uterus.”
According to Loudwire, Janus had a hysterectomy in June 2015.
10 Facts & things you didn’t know about Jill Janus
Life on the road can be difficult for even the most seasoned rock vet. Luckily Huntress frontwoman Jill Janus has provided Loudwire with this road survival guide, sharing some of her must-haves for those long tours across the U.S. and abroad. See what she suggests below:
As a woman who tours relentlessly, I’ve gathered several ‘must-haves’ while on the road. I went into tour life blind, having never toured extensively prior to forming Huntress. It was a rough adjustment period for me. I pretty much tortured my bandmates for the first two months. After a few bouts of female drama and psycho antics, I had to make a decision to control my emotions, man up and surrender to the road. Or I’d perish and take my band down with me. I found that making lists was therapeutic and brought structure to my strange, new existence as a touring musician. From the endless lists of desired sanity came my Top 10 Things I Need on Tour:
The first disposable mini-toothbrush with a breath freshening bead that allows you to have a clean, fresh mouth with no water or rinsing. Sometimes brushing your teeth the traditional way just ain’t practical while touring non-stop. Wisps are cool for scrubbin’ the crud in between brushing. And it’s fun on long, boring drives. You can find these lil’ guys on Amazon.com in bulk, or occasionally they show up in dollar stores and I’ll stock up.
Simply put, GoGirl is the way to stand up to crowded, disgusting, distant or non-existent bathrooms. It’s a female urination device that allows you to urinate while standing up. It’s neat. It’s discreet. It’s hygienic. When I got my GoGirl in the mail, I was so pumped that I peed with it for a week at home.
Being a girl with penis envy became a bit easier for me; I could now stand on the side of the road with my bandmates and attempt to write my initials in the snow too. I was finally one of the boys! It’s great for peeing into small bottles in the van as well. Plus it’s made of this space-age material that dries instantly. I’ve pretty much mastered the art of the GoGirl.
I now completely understand the old-timey phrase “whore’s bath” — wipe down the lady parts and you’re back in action. Baby Wipes are not only for down there, I use them for full body cleansing when I can’t take a shower, or when I’m just being lazy and gross.
I rapidly lose weight on tour. I’m no longer rippin’ bongs in bed while wolfing down chicken nuggets. With limited food options available, extreme physical activity on stage and a crazy-ass metabolism, I just can’t keep weight on. In fact, I’m stepping away from writing this to eat french fries. OK, I’m back. I drink Weight Gainer after shows and would recommend it to anyone with a high metabolism. I feel like a c–t even talking about how hard it is to gain weight, but it becomes a problem on tour and affects my ability to sustain energy while performing. A lack of consistent food also makes me feel sick, alters my mood and turns me into megabitch.
Ain’t no secret that I often ask the Tarot for guidance. I travel with the same Tarot deck I’ve had since age 13, ‘Tarot of the Old Path’ — I’ll read the cards alone or sometimes I’ll offer up readings for my bandmates. I’ve never given readings outside the band, it’s something I prefer to keep sacred and special within our little circle.
Liquidlast Eyeliner by MAC Cosmetics
If I had to choose one makeup item to bring on tour, it would be eyeliner. I burn through it. I’ve been partnered with MAC since 2009 and I’m thrilled to have a steady supply of my favorite cosmetics. The best tour eyeliner is Liquidlast, which can stay in place perfectly for 2-3 days. Sometimes I’ll say “f— it” and see how long I can go without removing my makeup. I find that minimal facial washing can also cut back on breakouts and makes skin look healthier.
It’s a unique amino acid that increases alpha brain wave activity, a sign of induced relaxation. It also helps ease occasional nervous tension, anxiety and irritability. This stuff rocks. I have severe anxiety that can turn into a gnarly panic attack on the road. When Huntress began touring in 2012, I relied on Xanax every day to ease my anxiety or help me sleep. Then I’d come home from tour, having to back off my dosage and it was always a bummer. I began taking L-Theanine (1000mg a day) in 2013, cut back on sugar and stopped drinking soda and all caffeinated beverages except black tea. My anxiety is more controlled than ever without the use of prescription drugs.
B12 (Methylcobalamin) is a lil’ miracle. It boosts energy and your immune system, eases stress, irritability and anxiety, plus increases concentration. Basically, I cannot live without B12 shots on tour! When I’m not touring, I work with Naturopathic doctors and give vitamin injections. I always bring my B12 kit on tour.
My Stoopid Phone
I’ve always been “meh” about technology and resisted the iPhone until I realized how important Social Media is for a band. I’m very interactive with fans and continue to build a strong bond with them. I post on our various sites several times a day, I’ve got it down to a science. I rarely use a laptop on the road since I can handle all my daily Huntress posts by iPhone. That’s pretty cool.
Melissa Cross and ‘The Zen of Screaming’
This woman had a profound effect on my vocal ability when I first started Huntress. Her methods on the ‘Zen of Screaming’ DVD helped me to shed my classical inflections and birth a new depth of singing. In addition to helping me lock down my ideal metal voice, Melissa’s lessons help me to maintain the voice night after night, never missing a show. I had my first lesson with Melissa in 2012 and never, ever perform without running through her soprano vocal warm-ups. She’s the most important thing I bring on tour!
I like to eat them in the van after a show. In the dark, alone. Full creep zone. I love finding unique pickles on the road, and weird pickle flavored food like potato chips or candy. Yummers.
We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!
Thanks for reading and remember to share this post